If you try hard enough, you can remember a time when your Instagram feed wasn’t clogged with photos of colorful açai bowls, delicious smoothies and fitness bloggers showing off their abs. Back in those days, circa 2009, SoulCycle was just a New York uptown cycling class, there were no fitness Instagrammers (mostly because the app had yet to debut) and if you were wearing leggings with no plans to hit up an exercise class, you were deemed too lazy to find real pants.
But in 2009, Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, two perfectly toned and tanned fitness instructors purchased a website for $600. They also invested $3,000 of their own money, plus the cost of a camcorder and a tripod, to start filming tough but accessible workout videos.
They called their new company Tone It Up. They quickly nabbed a loyal following and established themselves as a powerhouse brand in the new and important space of digital health and wellness. Now, in 2017, Tone It Up is a multi-billion dollar brand and has a community reach of over five million women worldwide thanks to Dawn and Scott’s peppy but encouraging personalities. You might be envious of their abs, but you also want to be their friend. Tone It Up is known for its extensively detailed diet and nutrition plans, recipes and female-dominated live workout events. This year the duo will embark on a National Fitness Tour, visiting multiple cities across the U.S., in addition to launching a new line of protein supplements, available on Target shelves sometime this spring.
But how did a series of simple workout videos, filmed on a beach, lead to a fitness empire? It was a classic case of chemistry and simple organic growth.
“Seven years ago, we were two girls who were new to L.A. and we met at the gym on a Friday night. From the very beginning―from the day Kat and I met―Tone It Up was based on social fitness and connecting with others, based on a shared passion for a healthy lifestyle. Kat and I experienced firsthand the positive effect this kind of relationship and connection provided us, which led us to organically create our community,” Dawn told the Observer.
“Instead of planning everything out and talking about all the things we would do, we just began doing! We bought a camera and a tripod, learned how to use sound and taught ourselves how to edit videos. We started uploading videos to YouTube and to our website, and step by step, we developed our brand and community,” Scott said.
Dawn continued: “Between fitness videos, cooking segments, releasing behind the scenes videos and demonstrating our genuine friendship and support of one another, we stood apart from everything that was out there. Soon, our community started requesting nutrition products, premium workout programs, and apparel. That’s when we realized we could develop lines of fitness apparel, nutrition products, and tools to better our community’s lifestyle.”
Though this was just the beginning of the fitfluencer market, the need for a wellness-focused community was clearly there. Luckily, Dawn and Scott knew just how to fill it; they became the gym buddy you always needed and wanted. Women are clearly encouraged by the fit duo, as many fans spend over $2,000 to attend Tone It Up Retreats (#TIURetreats.) These fitness vacations, usually held in a beautiful locale, include a variety of workouts, including SoulCycle, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, yoga and a 5K, plus healthy meals and lots of wine. Scott and Dawn are always on hand, helping and encouraging their community every step of the way. It’s the ultimate girls getaway for your mind and your body.
The Tone It Up nutrition plans are perfect for the modern, busy, ambitious, health-conscious, athleisure loving lady, as everything is covered. They include grocery lists, recipe guides, weekly workout schedules and guidelines for treats and alcohol. “Immediately, women gravitated toward our brand because it was real and came from a place of love and genuine care.We offered something more than just great workouts and advice; we invited women to become part of a positive, accountability-based community, and to join something bigger than ourselves. And we became an authentic place to make new best girlfriends,” Scott explained.
In the last few years, health and wellness has exploded on social media. Instagram, Snapchat and other mediums, provide a totally new and accessible platform for health, fitness and wellness pros to share their advice, tips, hacks, apparel and sick bodies. But, that means the health and wellness influence market is extremely saturated. So how does Tone It Up still stand out? In addition to offering products such as protein supplements, apparel, exercise equipment and beauty products, the heart of the brand is still those two friends making a fitness video on the beach. Dawn and Scott still run their own social media accounts, as they see them as personal expressions of themselves. Their @toneitup handle focuses on more brand-specific content, while @karenakatrina, @katrinaascott, and @karenadawn focuses on their personal lives and behind-the-scenes snippets.
“Tone It Up is not only an inspirational fitness brand; it‘s an aspirational lifestyle brand. We model support and accountability through friendship,” Scott said. “We practice self love and we show love and appreciation daily to each other. We’re two girlfriends, and we want you to have fun with us. That’s what makes us different.”
“We also have to take note of social fitness, which Tone It Up has advocated since its inception,” Dawn added. “This is the act of women getting together to enjoy the experience of working out socially. This is now a booming trend and our members have been ahead of the curve here; they’ve been doing this for years.”
Even though a new health and wellness star seems to be popping up every week, and using kale in a different way, there will still always be these two girls on the beach, encouraging you to come work out with them.